Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Day at the Beach

Like a lover who wakes up one morning suddenly to find the closets and dresser drawers empty and a goodbye note on the pillow case, my lifelong friend and partner 'ambition' left me yesterday.

I was seated on a bench on a beautiful day at the beach in Santa Monica, reading a book, and watching bikers and walkers move by, when I felt it; literally. My body transformed. Ambition was gone. In its place was a deep, physical sense of loneliness, of apartness, of distance from myself. It was a magnificently calming experience.

For a moment, a feeling of betrayal swept over me. Was I no longer being true to myself?

You see, ambition has been my friend, my constant companion all my life. As a boy walking down the street, if anyone was on the same block as me, either side of the street, I was always energized to beat them to the next corner. I would do whatever it took to succeed, whether walking fast, jogging or running pell-mell to the next curb. I had to win. Ambition was a condition of my youth. In my grammar school graduation yearbook, I wanted to be President of the US. In my high school yearbook, I wanted to be head of the UN.

Yet on this balmy day in Santa Monica, the 'now' only had meaning: life or death, poverty or pain, or future was irrelevant; only the sun, the breeze, the enjoyment of a good book mattered. I cared little of the world, of family, of friends, of work.

A silence engulfed me. I smiled at nearby pigeons, winked at children, nodded at mothers; but they were not really a part of my world. They were shadows, passing me silently, like many huge solar systems in an infinite universe, beyond each other's meaningful pull of gravity. I could smile because they were with me but no longer of me.

Reality intrudes.

My bladder brought me back to the present. The present meant a past, and a past dictated a future: places to go and see; and things to do: bathroom, car, traffic and home.

Betrayal ended. Ambition returned. However, my old friend since youth returned in a new form: I care not now who walks on the other side of the street, or whether one of us travellers gets to the curb first. I just want to live and walk forever. Preferably at the beach.


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